To some people, I am the man who comes home in the afternoon and plays, eats, disciplines, and reads out loud. They call me Daddy.
To one person, I am the man who comes home in the afternoon and helps cook, cleans, and fixes what the children have broken that day. She calls me her husband.
To other people, I am the man who comes in early, writes, edits, talks on the radio, and does what needs doing until I leave. They call me their coworker.
While I may be known for these things, all of them are what I do, not who I am.
To be completely transparent and a bit vulnerable for a moment, some days I’m not even sure who I am.
Author and preacher A.W. Tozer compiled seven rules for self-discovery in his book That Incredible Christian. I have found them to be incredibly insightful in helping me discover who I am and who I want to be. I turned his rules into the following questions that I ask myself on a regular basis. Perhaps they will be helpful to you too.
Rule 1: What do I want most?
This is easy to answer in a very superficial manner. We want lots of things: healthy children, a great marriage, money, peace, and so on. But Tozer said, “Get quiet, recollect our thoughts, wait for the mild excitement within us to subside, and then listen closely for the faint cry of desire.”
Then, he says, you can ask your heart what it would have over everything else in the world. Insist on truth, and reject what you think your culture, church, or family would have you say. When you know what you truly want, you will know what kind of person you are.
Rule 2: What do I think about most?
Our lives force us to dwell on many ideas throughout the day. We have to think about our work, our bills, and our family, among many other things. But there are times when we are lying in bed trying to sleep or driving down the road that our minds are free to wander. In those moments, what do we think about? Do we plan our futures of fame and fortune? Do we rehash an argument in our head, thinking about what we could have said differently that would have gotten us the final word?
“It is more than likely that our thoughts will cluster about our secret heart treasure, and whatever that is will reveal what we are,” Tozer said.
Rule 3: How do I use my money?
Just as some of our thoughts are forced, so is some of our money. We must have a house to live in, clothes to wear, and food to eat. But with the extra, however small that may be, what do we purchase? Tozer said where we spend our money is speaking and we would do well to listen to it.
Rule 4: How do I spend my leisure time?
I can’t state it any better than Tozer, so I will let him speak for himself: “Most people waste [leisure time] staring at the television, listening to the radio, reading the cheap output of the press, or engaging in idle chatter. What I do with mine reveals the kind of man I am.”
Rule 5: What company do I choose to keep?
Proverbs 13:20 (NIV) says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
The company we choose to keep, the friends we choose to make close, reveals much more about us that we may like to think. Tozer said, “Where we go when we are free to go where we will is a near-infallible index of character.”
Rule 6: Who and what do I admire most?
On the surface, this asks who our heroes are. Who do we look up to most? However, with a bit of thought, it goes much further than that.
“I have long suspected that the great majority of evangelical Christians … have a boundless, if perforce secret, admiration for the world,” Tozer said.
We can choose to be like the Old Testament Israelites and look upon the pagan world with admiration and even envy, or we can choose to examine Christ and place all our admiration on Him. Either way, that which we admire most reveals who we are and who we want to be.
Rule 7: What do I laugh at?
We have all said something akin to, “That’s terrible, but funny,” while laughing. It is true that laughter is a wonderful gift of God, but what we choose to laugh at reveals the content of our hearts.
While these are only seven rules, Tozer ends with a challenge: “The wise Christian will find others.”
Take some time today and ask God to give you questions to ask yourself. This is not a test of salvation or piety. It is a tool to reveal truths about yourself you have never before considered. If your answers to these questions reveal a need for you to repent, then do just that. In a week, a month, a year, come back and ask these questions again.
Do not use this as a stick with which to beat yourself; rather see it is a shovel digging deep into your soul and removing things that are hindering your pursuit of Christ.